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Fans of the syndicated radio show host Dr. Demento are probably very familiar with the quasi-musical stylings of Wild Man Fischer. Born Larry Wayne Fischer in Los Angeles in 1945, Wild Man Fischer has become a legendary figure of the underground or "outsider" rock music world. His most famous song is an autobiographical piece entitled "My Name is Larry". During the a cappella performance, he tunelessly sings a tribute to assorted friends and family, along with a rambling description of his personal life. His performance style is oddly compelling for audience members, as if a homeless person had taken over the stage to vent his frustrations.
Wild Man Fischer's early life was not particularly pleasant. Diagnosed with a number of mental illnesses, he was placed in an institution as a teen following an assault on his mother. Upon his release, he became a street performer in Los Angeles, often panhandling money from passers-by in exchange for one of his "songs." It is said that rock musician Frank Zappa, no stranger to the lunatic fringe movement himself, discovered Wild Man Fischer during one of his street performances.
With the assistance of Zappa, Fischer recorded his first album, An Evening with Wild Man Fischer, in 1968. This album contained 36 self-styled songs, mostly stream of consciousness rants and simplistic versions of 1950s music. Fischer and Frank Zappa had a falling out shortly after the release of the album, and subsequent reprinting rights have routinely been denied by Zappa's estate.
Wild Man Fischer's popularity as an underground performer continued to grow during the early 1970s, even as his personal life remained notoriously unstable. Booking him for an event was often an ordeal in itself, since he often vacillated between a manic state and extreme depression. Promoters have described finding him curled in a fetal position in his dressing room minutes before showtime. His vagabond lifestyle and fragile mental state were not an act, although his performances were generally well-received.
Through the efforts of the Dr. Demento radio show's host, Wild Man Fischer's recording of "My Name is Larry" became a staple of the novelty record genre. He also struck up an unexpected friendship with noted jazz vocalist Rosemary Clooney, leading to a collaboration on a song called "It's a Hard Business". Fischer's continued harassment of a local record store's employees and customers prompted owners to record and release his second album, Wildmania in 1978. This album was the first to be released by Rhino Records, which would eventually become a leader in alternative and mainstream music recordings.
Buoyed by the new exposure provided by Dr. Demento's radio show, Wild Man Fischer collaborated with another novelty musical act called Barnes and Barnes. Their quirky New Wave-influenced song "Fish Heads" became another popular novelty song in the early 1980s. The men behind Barnes and Barnes produced two Fischer albums, Pronounced Normal and Nothing Scary. Fischer also appears on a number of recordings, including a live album called Larry Comes Alive. Rhino Records has also released a compilation set called The Fischer King. A documentary entitled DERAILROADED was released in 2005.
Larry Comes Alive was a legitimate release by Bob Zilli, on the ATC label in MI. It was a recording of an MI performance in 1979, which I attended.
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